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Last Updated: Monday, 12 January, 2004, 12:54 GMT
Press polarised as Iran poll looms

Tension in Iran over the decision to disqualify hundreds of reformists from standing in next month's elections to parliament - the Majlis - is reflected clearly in Monday's press.

The English-language Iran Daily warned that the large number of disqualified candidates could "create new problems at this stage". Attempts to restrict people's choice could discourage voters from turning out for the 20 February elections, the paper said, and that would "not serve the interests of the Islamic Republic".

The conservative Resalat said "extremists" in the reform camp were "playing a game".

"Some of the current reformists, especially in the Majlis, are no longer idealistic about the reforms," the paper charged.

"They have tasted power and its advantages and it could be said that they have, in a sense, become addicted to power."

Some of the reformists, it alleged, are "grasping any pretext in order to stay in power".

Jomhuri-ye-Eslami, the hardline paper which supports the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, noted what it called the "wide coverage by foreign news media affiliated to the West's espionage circles" of the protests following the disqualifications.

The grounds on which many candidates were disqualified were "so sensitive that if the people were to be told, they would banish these individuals from society", the paper said.

It spoke of documentary evidence that some of the barred candidates had "called for the dismemberment" of Iran.

'Shocking'

According to the reformist Sharq, Majlis deputy Ali Qanbary said the elections would be pivotal in shaping the country's destiny.

Qanbary accused the conservative Council of Guardians, which vets the candidates, of "wielding the weapon of consultative supervision with the aim of disqualifying reformists and the true servers of the people and the society".

Some of the current reformists...have, in a sense, become addicted to power
Resalat

Another reformist paper, Aftab-e Yazd, noted rising concern over the extent of the disqualifications, saying the Council of Guardians' justification "does not seem to be rational", and Iran News called the disqualifications "shocking".

The centre-right Entekhab recalled last February's city council elections which, it said, were "the freest elections in Iran's history and were held without any kind of consultative supervision".

Turnout then was less than 12 per cent, leading in effect to a victory by default for conservative candidates.

That poll, the paper said, "showed that such elections do not pose a danger to the country".

It spoke of the need to "prepare the ground for an internal and international consensus base to be formed against power-seeking forces".

At the same time, the paper warned against developments which, it said, could "pave the way for interference by the United Nations on human rights grounds".

"Free elections are the only thing that would be in the interests of the nation, the citizens and the political factions, including the conservative faction," the paper concluded.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




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